Airguns of the American West Part 6
Shooting the Schofield Revolver
As close as it gets to the real thing!
By Dennis Adler
The .177 caliber Schofield revolver is a page right out of Western history, the gun that beat Colt’s to market with the first larger caliber single action cartridge loading revolver, and in 1870 got the bulge on Colt’s with the first U.S. Cavalry orders for a new post Civil War handgun. The topbreak S&W Schofield and No. 3 American models may not have been as famous as the Colt Peacemaker, but they certainly wrote themselves a chapter in the story of the American West. The new .177 caliber Schofield models bring that same heritage to the Western airgun market with two well built and accurate six-shooters.
The finish on the standard Schofield model is matte charcoal black with the look and feel of old time (but not that old) Parkerizing, used on military weapons. The original phosphate process itself, used on steel to resist rusting and corrosion, dates as far back as the 1850s, but didn’t come into prominent use on firearms until WWII. And since the majority of parts on the airgun are cast alloy, it isn’t really Parkerizing, but a hard coat surface that is very resilient, though not overly attractive, nor correct for a Schofield revolver. For those who prefer a period correct finish, Bear River also has a nickel plated model that looks remarkably real.
Dimensionally, the Bear River Schofield is very close in size and balance to an original Schofield civilian model (pictured). With an overall length of 12.5 inches and a 7-inch barrel, the airgun is within fractions of an inch to an original, with a carry weight of 37.5 ounces; a .45 S&W Schofield weighs 39 ounces. Compared to a 7-1/2 inch barrel length Colt SAA, the Schofield and Colt are comparably balanced but almost everyone to a man will find the Colt faster to cock because of the larger hammer and longer hammer spur. For the airguns, the Schofield is a bit nose heavy compared to the 5-1/2 inch barrel length Umarex Colt Peacemaker, and once again the Colt is faster to cock. Of course, in the Old West and even today, speed isn’t as important as accuracy, the Schofield’s rear sight being integral with the large latch release is a tad easier to acquire. In the end, it is the same today as it was 143 years ago; choosing between a Colt and a Smith & Wesson is a matter of personal preference.
The CO2 loads into the Schofield’s grip frame exactly like the Colt Peacemaker, and the left grip panel also has a built-in wrench to tighten the seating screw and pierce the CO2 cartridge. Where the two differ is in loading the BBs into the cartridges. The Colt rounds load BBs (or pellets on the pellet models) into the back of the cartridge where the primer goes on a real pistol round. The Schofield loads BBs (so far there is only a smoothbore BB model available), into the nose of the BB cartridge bullet.
Since extra rounds come with a speed loader, it is really fast to seat six BBs. Once in the speed loader just press all six into a jar lid full of BBs, they almost seat themselves. A quick check to ensure they are all seated to the proper depth, and you’re ready to load. If you don’t have the speed loader, you can hold all six nose-down in your hand and do it almost as quickly.
Loaded with Hornady Black Diamond .177 caliber black anodized steel BBs, and fired offhand from a range of 25 feet, the Schofield put a best six rounds on target measuring 0.75 inches. Out of a total of 24 rounds, all 24 shots struck inside of 3.0 inches with as second six round group measuring 1.125 inches.
Just for the heck of it I shot another six rounds fast draw from the hip at a distance of 10 feet. All six came in low (Old West gut shots) with a spread measuring just under 2-inches on the target. Velocity for the CO2 powered single action with Black Diamond averaged 418 fps. The sights, identical to the original S&W model, are not the greatest in the world but certainly no worse, and on my antique finished model used for the tests, a little better than those of a comparable Colt Peacemaker because of the contrast between the polished front blade and dark rear notch. All things being equal, the Schofield stacks up to the .177 caliber Peacemaker much the same today as it did in the 1870s.
Coming up in Part 7, “So, you hate the matte black finish on the standard Schofield airgun?” Here’s how to make your own antiqued model just like the author’s.
A word about safety
Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.